• Wednesday Oct 24, 2012

    Proud Olimpia wants to build on history

    TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- Olimpia's players and staff head to San Salvador Thursday with one thing on their minds: three points and another step towards the quarterfinals of the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League.

    Pitted against cross-border rival FAS in a Week Five showdown, the Hondurans have plenty of reason to dream.Boasting one of the proudest traditions in Central American club soccer, Olimpia is celebrating its centennial year with a series of sterling performances on the local and international scene.

    At home, the Merengues are the two-time reigning champions of Honduras, having taken home the Apertura 2011 and the Clausura 2012 trophies.Over the weekend, they improved on their bid to win a third-straight title by topping Deportes Savio on the road, remaining undefeated through ten rounds of the current campaign and opening up a three point lead at the top of the table.

    Olimpia, one of only three teams to qualify for each of the CCL's five editions, has enjoyed frequent success in the Honduran league, capturing an astounding 25 titles since the competition began nearly half a century ago.Just as remarkable is the Honduran club's success throughout those same years in CONCACAF play.

    During a proud history, Olimpia has chalked up more than its share of international glory.The Lions have hoisted the CONCACAF Champions Cup twice, in 1972 and 1988, and were runners-up in 1985 and 2000.

    That second-place finish in 2000, when Olimpia just missed out on another title in dropping a thrilling, last-minute decision, 3-2, to the LA Galaxy, also earned the club a ticket to what was to be the inaugural FIFA Club World Cup.Unfortunately, that event was eventually cancelled as the tournament was retooled, and then the Merengues followed it up with a slight dry spell in international play.

    Knocked out in the opening round of four-consecutive Champions Cup tournaments between 2002 and 2007, Olimpia then failed to advance past group play in its first try at the full-fledged Champions League, after the tournament was reformatted for the 2008-09 season.Last year, Lions just missed out on the group stage after a heartbreaking 4-3 aggregate loss in the Preliminary Round to eventual finalist Santos.

    It was during the 2010-11 campaign that the Merengues reached their CCL pinnacle, making the quarterfinals after finishing top of Group D, before bowing out to Costa Rican side Saprissa.This time around, they aim to improve on that feat and head to El Salvador with another quarterfinal qualification very much in its sights.

    FAS is already eliminated from Champions League contention.Three straight losses by a combined score of 10-1, including a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Olimpia on Aug. 2, guaranteed an early exit for the Tigers, who are only performing for pride now.

    The Lions, though, can play this round with the tranquility of knowing they will go to Houston with a shot to win the group regardless of the result Thursday.After tying the Dynamo on that team's visit to Tegucigalpa last month, a win by any margin in Houston on October 23 would hand them the group based on the head-to-head tiebreaker.

    No matter the final score Thursday, a historic clash in Houston awaits next month.In Olimpia's centennial year, nothing would be bigger for the club than to progress to the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League, while taking one huge step closer to finally adding a FIFA Club World Cup ticket to its sparkling history.

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